Spare Parts (a short story)

Early October was breathtakingly beautiful in Connecticut, with red and yellow leaves so bright they seemed to have their own internal light source. That is, until that fateful day when everything started turning gray.

It started with objects that were not so bright, such as the few leaves that hadn’t turned, blue cars, green cars, tan leather couches, sparrows, white dogs, road signs, buildings, paper, flesh, hair, … Soon, even red and yellow objects turned gray.

Scientists all over the world were baffled. So, they began testing objects of all types, and learned that all objects, no matter what they were made of, were giving off about the same wavelength of light. Objects that had emitted/reflected light of red, corresponding to a wavelength of about 7000 angstroms, now emitted/reflected light that had a random mixture of wavelengths from about 4000 to 7000 angstroms, corresponding to the “color” gray. Yet, as far as the scientists could determine, there had been no material changes to the examined objects.

This really defied common sense, but experiment after experiment confirmed it.

As you can imagine, this created enormous problems, since it was hard to tell one object from another. Not all objects were the exact same shade of gray, but the trends suggested that all would be the same within a few days. Once that happened, all objects would appear to have fused together and it would look as if there was only one gigantic blob of gray. The whole universe would be gray. 

And, as if that weren’t enough to drive most species mad, a similar thing occurred with sounds. Every sound source now emitted sound waves at a frequency of 440 Hertz (the musical note “A”). People could no longer communicate. Not only could they not see each other, they could only speak one constant tone, no matter what they were trying to say.And it got worse from there. Thoughts, which are waves of electromagnetic energy, all became the same frequency, so that every thought was the same, which is basically the same as having no thoughts at all.


It turns out that we are living in a simulated universe. Yes, our universe is not the real one, but is a simulation. Even sentience is simulated, as is every object. None of our “reality” is objectively real. This explains why we cannot measure smaller than the Planck scale: it is a problem with the resolution of the simulator, instead of being due to the “quantum uncertainty” as claimed by our scientists.

Our universe was “created” 6,000 years ago – that is, that is when the simulation started. Since then, the simulation equipment has been running nonstop, which has taken a toll on some of it. Specifically, a frequency modulator had worn out.

It took the creator a while to realize what had happened, since he was busy working on other projects in the real universe. By the way, the real universe happens to be only 200 ft. by 200 ft. and has one occupant: the creator, Steve Jobs. He simulates our universe using a QuantumBook Pro QC (quantum computer), and maintains a simple lifestyle within his 200 by 200 universe. The computer has 64 GigaQubit quantum computation chips, along with 12 TerraHertz processors for use in classical computations, since classical comp is better for certain problems than quantum comp. Steve’s only other equipment is an iPad, which he uses mostly for checking email from God. He is working on becoming less curt in his replies.

The Steve did not have a spare frequency modulator, so he plans to use a simulated one. And, while he is at it, he thinks he might as well do an upgrade to Universe 2.0. It’s just a matter of deciding on a new feature set.

Steve’s desire is have the upgrade give all simulated humans the Zen-like philosophy that he has. But, he realizes that doing so would destroy the free-will subroutines he had spent so much time developing. He remembered well the software iterations he had to work through to get the woman-tempted-by-the-apple thing to work out. He had hated that he had to use deceit and temptation to test free-will, but freedom is only meaningful when it butts up against temptation.

So, making everyone Zen-like was out, but Steve had other ideas. For example, he liked the idea of adding reincarnation into the simulation. It would be a little bit of a challenge, and would also require the development of a memory-intensive karma unit, but a challenge sounded like fun and memory was never a problem.

On the other hand, he thought, why do reincarnation when he could program the simulation to give simulated humans the ability to do ancestor simulations? That way, the humans could “bring back” their ancestors and each person could, in principle, live indefinitely. He really liked this: a simulated universe “containing” countless simulated universes. How cool, hm?

Of course, he was aware that his idea could, conceivably, result in an infinite regress, and that the whole shebang could blow up while trying to create an infinite number of universes. But, preliminary testing on his laptop predicted that the number of universes would plateau, and that the whole ensemble would be stable. So, he makes it so.

For the more picky among you, you may have noted that the 6,000 year “true age” of our simulated universe does not agree with the age of the universe as computed by our scientists. Well, the real age is 6,000 years. The Steve programmed in fake evidence of a Big Bang (which was never actually simulated) to suggest a much older age for the universe, specifically the 13.82 billion years we are now estimating. He did this just to mess with the heads of our (simulated) scientists and cosmologists. Given half a chance, Steve will fuck with your head. It doesn’t matter whether your head is real or simulated. Either way, he considers it his to diddle with. The only thing Steve regretted about this is that there weren’t any real humans to see how proud he is that he is overcoming his reputation for not having a sense of humor (and for being too curt in email replies).

Now that we know we live in a simulated universe, and that we are simulated ourselves, maybe we can quit putting so much effort into the science of “beginnings” and maybe we can refocus philosophy to focus on useful problems instead of head games. Perhaps a little less Wallacean readings of Kripkean readings of Wittgensteinian readings of Fregean readings of Kant and more on the epistemological limitations of simulated beings.

It’s a new world, baby.